Lifestyle

11 Things You Didn't Know About eBay

Before eBay, auctions were reserved for important people bidding on paintings, vultures trying to pick up some sweet used cars from the police impound, and opportunists trolling the classifieds for estate auctions. But in 1995 Pierre Omidyar figured out a way to put auctions on the interweb, allowing prices to be set instantaneously by current supply and demand and jump starting the recirculation of used stuff. But while you might be one of the millions who've lifted up a virtual paddle to bid, how much do you really know about eBay?

Brits have more eBay sales per capita than any other nation.
The first item ever sold there was the album You and I by the iconic German band Scorpions, which sold for £2.89. We speculate that this massive deal caused the intense popularity.

You may not sell a soul on eBay.
According to eBay, if the soul doesn't exist, you may not sell it, because there would be nothing to sell. And if it does exist, you can't sell it due to the restriction on human body parts. You can't sell ghosts either.

The first item sold on eBay was a broken laser pointer.
EBay contacted the buyer to confirm that he understood it was broken. The buyer said of course, and turned out to be a collector of broken laser pointers.

In 2002, the town of Bridgeville, California became the first town to be sold on eBay.
The tiny town (pop. 28) went for $1,777,877, but has been put back on the market three times since.

EBay was the second choice for the name.
It was supposed to be "EchoBay," but that was taken. It was also the second name, having gone by "AuctionNet" for a few years. AuctionNet had blindingly ugly 1995 graphic design, similar to what Craigslist still uses today.

The original eBay had a page dedicated to Ebola information.
It's unclear why Pierre Omidyar put the info about the deadly virus on eBay, but his biographer speculates it may have been to get traffic because of the name similarity. She also says it might have been just a little bit of dark humor.

People have met on eBay and married.
The first wedding was officiated in New Orleans by then-CEO Meg Whitman.

Around a quarter (ba dum pssh) of all coins and two-thirds of antiquities on eBay are fake.
And according to court papers from a lawsuit, 70 percent of Tiffany stuff is fake. However, a court ruled that eBay has no legal responsibility to monitor the authenticity of items sold. Caveat emptor.

In 2004, a new species of sea urchin was discovered while it was being auctioned off.
It happened again in 2008 when a fossil of a previously unknown species was purchased from a Lithuanian seller. The British scientist who bought the fossil tried to have it named Mindarus ebayici, but the humorless members of the scientific community shot it down, naming it Mindarus harringtoni instead.

You may not sell intentionally soiled underwear on eBay.
But if it's an accident . . .

The most expensive item ever sold was a "Gigayacht."
It went for $168 million and is 405 feet long. Commented a yacht broker: "There's definitely a 'mine is bigger than yours' syndrome in this industry and there is a desire to have the best. That's the great thing about these yachts." Totally.


Ethan Wolff-Mann is the Gear editor for Supercompressor. He prefers auctions with yelling. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.